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SCOE to host “Bridging the Achievement Gap” event with Dr. Rex Fortune

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“Bridging the Achievement Gap: What Successful Educators and Parents Do” by Dr. Rex Fortune
“We can, whenever and wherever we choose, successfully teach all children whose schooling is of interest to us. Whether or not we do this, depends upon how we feel about the fact that we haven’t done it so far.” (Dr. Ron Edmonds, 1979)

Sacramento County Office of Education Leadership Institute will host Sacramento-area author and educator Rex Fortune on Thursday, Sept. 27, 2012, 4-6 p.m., at the David P. Meaney Center in Mather, Calif.

Fortune will present an in-depth workshop and discuss his book, “Bridging the Achievement Gap: What Successful Educators and Parents Do,” published earlier this year. Attendees will receive a copy of the book as part of the price of admission.

The general public is invited to join parents, professional educators and school administrators, who expect to benefit from Fortune’s professional experiences, relevant to points advocated in the book. Attendees will also have the opportunity to question Fortune regarding the feasibility of implementing the specific strategies and policy changes detailed in the book.

In his book, Fortune defines the “achievement gap” as academic performance disparities, confirmed statistically by academic testing that indicates Asian and white students are much more likely to score higher on state and national standardized tests. As a consequence they are more likely to complete high school and go on to obtain a college degree than their Black or Latino peers.

“This achievement gap problem has grave consequences for not only the children left behind, but for our whole society where such children grow up to become greater tax-using liabilities, instead of social and economic producers for themselves, their families and their communities,” stated Fortune.

Fortune is one of the nation’s leading advocates for education reform. In 2002, he co-authored the book “Leadership on Purpose: Promising Practices for African-American and Hispanic Students.”

Fortune’s impeccable credentials include a doctorate in education from Stanford University along with 40 years of experience as an educator. He began his career teaching high school before moving on to serve as a school site administrator.

Thereafter, Fortune served as associate superintendent of public instruction in the California State Department of Education for 11 years, superintendent of the Inglewood Unified School District for five years and superintendent of Center USD for 15 years before he retired in 2003.

During a time in his life when he could comfortably remain retired and enjoy the fruits of a long and storied career, Fortune continues to be an active force in education through the two companies that he founded.

Dr. Rex Fortune, Author and Educator
Fortune serves as the president of Fortune & Associates. As president, he invested the time, energy, effort and resources to put together a team that includes his son, company vice president Rex Fortune III. Together they conducted the extensive research and writing required to publish “Bridging the Achievement Gap.”

After the company published the book and developed a companion DVD, “Parenting Practices: How Successful Parents Bridge the Achievement Gap,” Fortune is now focused on spreading the message through lectures, workshops and media appearances. He is also available to consult with school districts or collections of schools that are engaged in improving their effectiveness.

Fortune also remains active as part of the Fortune School of Education that he founded in 1989 during his tenure as superintendent of Center USD. The school has credentialed teachers in single subjects, special education and most recently, in administrative services. He continues to serve as director of research and evaluation for the teacher credentialing programs.

"Dr. Fortune’s research on how schools are closing the achievement gap is important work to share with leaders, teachers and parents in the Sacramento region,” stated Dr. L. Steven Winlock, executive director of the SCOE Leadership Institute.

“One of the major focuses of the Leadership Institute is to provide support and strategies that will assist educators in the development of their knowledge around student achievement," said Winlock.

The Leadership Institute is a collaboration between the Sacramento County Office of Education and local school districts, whose continuing mission is to prepare and support aspiring leaders in the field of education. Its guiding principle is that “high-quality leadership is key to success for students, teachers, schools, and districts.”

Fortune’s research confirms that poverty is only one of several contributing causes of the achievement gap, but it is the leading indicator that students will enter the educational system already behind their peers who benefit from more affluent circumstances.

Fortune points out that not enough staff who work in schools where poor minority children attend have seen evidence that gives them confidence that such children can become high achievers.

In contrast, Fortune’s research reveals that the faculty and staff of high-performing minority schools had high expectations, and were confident that their students could learn and excel.

According to Fortune, school leaders in some failing schools are apparently unable to create a school culture that is conducive to high achievement. They seem unable to reset the school calendar to provide extra instructional time for students who are behind to catch up.

The problem is exacerbated when some school leaders in failing schools are unable to hire the most competent teachers and other staff to meet the needs of the students, especially if that new staff is less senior than others already employed.

Dr. Rex Fortune making a point from his book, Bridging the Achievement Gap”
Fortune notes that successful schools focus their instruction on content standards, driven by the frequent assessment of student learning, along with sufficient planning, staff development and professional collaboration, to create a school-wide culture of academic excellence and student achievement. Failing schools lack that type of overall institutional focus. Fortune is committed to demonstrating that these issues can be addressed whether or not children live in poverty at home.

“Bridging the Achievement Gap” focuses on identifying specific strategies and policies that can be put into place, once it is acknowledged that the status quo must be changed at failing schools where minority students whose families are mired in poverty are prevalent in the student population.  

In his book, Fortune identifies eight leadership strategies, 33 teaching strategies and 11 parent strategies that have been successful in transforming schools that were previously turning out low-achieving students. These schools now matriculate students who have the academic skills to score well above state averages on standardized tests, and are prepared to move forward to institutions of higher learning and become productive members of the work force.

Fortune emphasizes that implementing the necessary changes that will make a difference requires leadership from those currently in positions to make the required adjustments. Faculty, staff, administrators and policymakers must believe that proposed changes are necessary and cooperate with one another to put them into practice, while at the same time be prepared to handle any possible resistance from some students and parents.

Fortune notes that while parental support and partnership with the school is very helpful and greatly desired, bridging the gap is achievable whether or not parents are supportive.

This is because schools are largely responsible for instruction in content, and have control of the major themes proven by research to be successful. Themes include providing more time for learning, conducting frequent assessment of student learning, teaching to California state standards and creating a positive school culture, which teaches students lifelong social skills, functions that are all carried out by school staff.

Those who attend the SCOE presentation and workshop will receive much more than could be gleaned by simply reading the book. According to Fortune, the workshop is intended to serve as a springboard for those interested in learning and sharing strategies for bridging that gap.

“It will provide a base of information drawn from research that led to the content of the book,” said Fortune. “It may also be just the experience that some will need to jumpstart reform efforts in their own schools and districts.”

“Some may be inspired to replicate this kind of discussion in schools and communities where they live,” stated Fortune. “Attendees will leave with a set of tools to assist with that process.”

Those who are interested in attending the event should contact Kristen Coyle, director of the Leadership Institute, at the Sacramento County Office of Education. She can be contacted via telephone at 916-228-2538, by email at kcoyle@scoe.net or through their website at www.scoeleadership.net.

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